Jesse Weaver Shipley
2020-2021: Genevieve McMillan-Reba Stewart Fellow
Jesse Weaver Shipley is a writer, ethnographer, and filmmaker whose work explores the links between aesthetics and politics by focusing on performance genres under changing political-economic regimes. He has conducted research in Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Britain, and the United States on the lived experiences of urban space, labor, race, gender, mobility, and new media technologies. He is currently writing a book on political and cultural revolutions of the 1970s entitled, Practical Guide to Coup d'Etat: Performing Revolution Accra, Ghana 1979-1983. He is also the author of Living the Hiplife: Celebrity and Entrepreneurship in Ghanaian Popular Music and Trickster Theatre: Poetics of Freedom in Urban Africa. Shipley’s writing, research, and art use a conceptualist approach to explore the intimate details of lived worlds. He experiments with forms of storytelling, portraiture, and theory to tie mundane details and spectacular events to broader principles of power, aesthetics, desire, and trauma. He is currently the John D. Willard Professor of African and African American Studies and Oratory at Dartmouth College.
Performing Revolution: Violence and Charisma in Ghanaian Uprisings, 1979-1983
Performing Revolution: Violence and Charisma in Ghanaian Uprisings, 1979-1983 examines a turbulent revolutionary period in Ghana, beginning with the successful June 4th 1979 uprising that brought Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings and the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council to power and ends with a failed coup on June 19th 1983 in which a coalition of radical left and right-wing soldiers attempted unsuccessfully to remove Rawlings. This work is significant in that it demonstrates the global linkages and local nuances of Ghana in the 1970s. The Ghanaian case shows that 1979 was a critical moment of global change and anti-imperial activity, when radical critiques of Western capital arose across the globe, perhaps one final time, to be met by the rising Reagan-Thatcher doctrines of free market economics and Cold War covert coercions. As US and British interests competed for influence across Africa, students, journalists, professionals, soldiers, and workers sought creative ways to reclaim the sovereign right that independence promised.
This book also weaves the tales of multiple participants including Rawlings himself, his key allies and opponents, radical leftists, militant soldiers, market women, ambassadors, spies, British and American diplomats, with archival, popular media, and Western intelligence services perspectives on the events. By drawing together multiple, often contradictory accounts of this revolutionary moment, Performing Revolutions reveals how power emerges from the ground up, as people living their normal lives are pushed into unprecedented experiences.